Uncommon. That’s what the Maine Common Ground Fair is. Held every year in Unity, Maine in the middle of September (this year it was the 21st – 23rd), this fair always means uncommon food, uncommon people, uncommon fun. It’s like a flea market, and a farmers market, and a sustainable growing seminar all in one, where once a year thousands of Mainers with their children, dogs, horses, sheep, goats, cows, rabbits, chickens, vegetables, crafts, fine-art and a zillion other things descend to swap stories, products, eat fried haddock, fried dough, pies, ice-cream-cones, and pie in ice-cream-cones and have a generally rip-roaring time.
The common ground fair is like a county fair on steroids, except that the whole point is that everything is organic, environmentally sustainable, and chemical free. Though there are a large number of tourist folk like me, the fair started so that local farmers could swap seeds, animals, and farming techniques – and the proceedings retain an informative air.
I learned to tell difference between bulls, steers, and oxen, here that is in case you are wondering:
“Steer” is a term used for a castrated male, unless kept for draft purposes (ie, pulling carts, plows & logs) in which case he is called an “Ox” (plural “oxen”), Oxen are usually over four years old because of the training they need to become good workers. A “Bull” is an intact full grown male.
I learned which commands any draft horse or ox worth its weight needs to know:
1. get up, 2. whoa (stop), 3. back up, 4. gee (turn to the right) and 5. haw (turn to the left)
I found myself wondering what we would sound like giving directions if we used these terms ourselves…“Gee at the second Whoa light and continue straight, its the first house on the haw”
Patted red-brown goats from the calahari desert, and rabbits so bizarrely fluffy that they had to be sheared like sheep (and then wear sweaters to keep off the Maine chill!)
The food was fantastic, the day even better, and by the time we left in dwindling daylight, I was feeling some serious guilt that my rental didn’t have a converted grease engine, like many in the long, long line of cars in front and behind me. My cats loved the organic catnip I bought them so much, they removed it from my suitcase before I’d even the chance to unpack it.
Next September if you can, head to this fair. See the website
(Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)